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A no-taking-sides, no judgment classification of the 4 types of Audiophile. "The audiophile bestiary".

birdog1960

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At some point it comes down to attitude. If I settle for an old cassette Walkman with the 2" speaker thumping against the stops, I may enjoy the heck out of it. But few would qualify that as hi-fi.
because there's nothing good between a walkman and a $20k audio system...
 

pau

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At some point it comes down to attitude. If I settle for an old cassette Walkman with the 2" speaker thumping against the stops, I may enjoy the heck out of it. But few would qualify that as hi-fi.
Why would one care what few qualify? Your joyment is what should matter, not what others decide for you.
 

fpitas

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Whether I am being trolled, or not, it's devolving that way. So I'm outa here.
 

pau

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Whether I am being trolled, or not, it's devolving that way. So I'm outa here.
Didnt mean it that way, just different opinions & goals i suppose. Cheers.
 

tonycollinet

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Interesting, The topic or statement was thrown that no one get good sound from gear if its not accurate.

Are you limiting your music experience for only the various songs recorded with 24bit and so on? After all normal living conditions you are hard to find differences after 12bits and there definately is a statement to be made for good sound doesnt need that much. People enjoyed good sound even 100 years ago. I would agree if you would stated "thats not Hyper ultrasonic fidelity with limited records to enjoy.''

You are confusing "good sound" with "good audio" (the original statement that @birdog1960 objected to, starting with "audio gear"):
Audio gear quality means a single thing - to what extent does the system alter the sound without all that psychological baggage, room effects, etc? Lack of coloration is all that matters. The best way to check that is measuring it. If you don't like accurate sound, suit yourself, you are not getting good audio.

Sound is the music you are listening to. Audio (in the context of the statement he was replying to) is the audio performance of the reproduction equipment. Good audio (in that context) is simply how accurately the equipment reproduces the signal in the recording. That is what high fidelity means - high fidelity to the recording.

People enjoy all sorts of sound - accurate or not - and there is nothing wrong with that. But audio equipment that creates lots of audible distortion - whether you personally enjoy it nor not - is not "good" audio (equipment).

Just imagine - we could have avoided all the last 4 or 5 pages of discussion if we'd managed to generate that common understanding at the start. :p:cool:
 
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ahofer

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audio gear quality!
image.jpg
 

pau

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You are confusing "good sound" with "good audio" (the original statement that you objected to, starting with "audio gear"):


Sound is the music you are listening to. Audio (in the context of the statement you were replying to) is the audio performance of the reproduction equipment. Good audio (in that context) is simply how accurately the equipment reproduces the signal in the recording. That is what high fidelity means - high fidelity to the recording.

People enjoy all sorts of sound - accurate or not - and there is nothing wrong with that. But audio equipment that creates lots of audible distortion - whether you personally enjoy it nor not - is not "good" audio (equipment).

Just imagine - we could have avoided all the last 4 or 5 pages of discussion if we'd managed to generate that common understanding at the start. :p:cool:
Well the endline states ->" If you don't like accurate sound, suit yourself, you are not getting good audio."

We can also then move to the DSP , room curves etc. all preferences to produce sound= listening experience. there was 2 decades the purist never used any DSP, are we on another one of those barriers here?

Anyways i get the gear accurate but accurate is also preference which might not be the single truth to what is good sounding as we do all kind of DSP to alter the response with personal preferences.
 

tonycollinet

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Well the endline states ->" If you don't like accurate sound, suit yourself, you are not getting good audio."

We can also then move to the DSP , room curves etc. all preferences to produce sound= listening experience. there was 2 decades the purist never used any DSP, are we on another one of those barriers here?

Anyways i get the gear accurate but accurate is also preference which might not be the single truth to what is good sounding as we do all kind of DSP to alter the response with personal preferences.
Accurate is not a preference - the output of a piece of gear is either audibly the same as what goes into it - or it is not accurate. The bigger the difference the less accurate. Accuracy is defined and measurable.

Regarding DSP, for two decades the purist only had room treatments available to them to try and tame the room.

Like room treatment DSP is intended to correct the effect of the in room response. In other words the interaction of the speakers with the room causes problems in the frequency response in the form of reflections and room modes.

DSP is intended to correct those so that what you hear is more accurate to the recording. (Which is why we measure the actual room response and apply filters to correct that). DSP should not be adding any distortion.
 

pau

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Accurate is not a preference - the output of a piece of gear is either audibly the same as what goes into it - or it is not accurate. The bigger the difference the less accurate. Accuracy is defined and measurable.

Regarding DSP, for two decades the purist only had room treatments available to them to try and tame the room.

Like room treatment DSP is intended to correct the effect of the in room response. In other words the interaction of the speakers with the room causes problems in the frequency response in the form of reflections and room modes.

DSP is intended to correct those so that what you hear is more accurate to the recording. (Which is why we measure the actual room response and apply filters to correct that). DSP should not be adding any distortion.
That still in my book doesnt absolute truth of good sound. Sometimes one can enjoy bottom heavy with more bass, night time less, loudness correcction etc. = not truth to what goes in <> out accurately would be the good sound for that mood or situation in the slightest.

So is it then i dont get good audio or listening experience because the preferences? Still its preferences which one can choose or choose not to enjoy. instead of following any absolute truths to seek acccurate in <> out universal truth like the decades online denial of using any DSP, Tone balance etc.

Gear is the same, Someone with older ears might prefer brighter speakers someone cant stand subwoofers for the bottom octaves etc. Do they also not get good audio if they are missing part of the band spectrum or have preferences of tonality? which one do they fall into in this hi-fi barrier of good sound? :)

No point to make any single truth rather guidances which one can choose to agreee or disagree. Diversity and something to choose for each preferences is good and things would be very bland if all would be from same mold.
 

tonycollinet

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That still in my book doesnt absolute truth of good sound. Sometimes one can enjoy bottom heavy with more bass, night time less, loudness correcction etc. = not truth to what goes in <> out accurately would be the good sound for that mood or situation in the slightest.

So is it then i dont get good audio or listening experience because the preferences? Still its preferences which one can choose or choose not to enjoy. instead of following any absolute truths to seek acccurate in <> out universal truth like the decades online denial of using any DSP, Tone balance etc.

Gear is the same, Someone with older ears might prefer brighter speakers someone cant stand subwoofers for the bottom octaves etc. Do they also not get good audio if they are missing part of the band spectrum or have preferences of tonality? which one do they fall into in this hi-fi barrier of good sound? :)

No point to make any single truth rather guidances which one can choose to agreee or disagree. Diversity and something to choose for each preferences is good and things would be very bland if all would be from same mold.
If you enjoy/prefer less accurate - that doesn't suddenly change inaccurate to accurate.

If you have accurate gear, then modify the frequency response to preference using tone controls or equalisation, or any other method - that is fine, and the correct way to do it. You can even add distortion using DSP if you want - though I'm not aware of any studies that indicate a general preference for this.

Trying to get your preferred sound by buying randomly distorting gear with randomly non flat frequency response is a hiding to nothing, and just asking to spend vast sums of money chasing pixie dust.
 

pau

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If you enjoy/prefer less accurate - that doesn't suddenly change inaccurate to accurate.

If you have accurate gear, then modify the frequency response to preference using tone controls or equalisation, or any other method - that is fine, and the correct way to do it. You can even add distortion using DSP if you want - though I'm not aware of any studies that indicate a general preference for this.

Trying to get your preferred sound by buying randomly distorting gear with randomly non flat frequency response is a hiding to nothing, and just asking to spend vast sums of money chasing pixie dust.
Accurate no matter in what hifi bible as the absolute truth might not sound right or most enjoyable neither. and why would it be ok with accurate gear to modify equal sound but not vise versa if the final result to the listener match. doenst make a single bit of sense except the same snakeoil from another measurable angle. :D
 

tonycollinet

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Accurate no matter in what hifi bible as the absolute truth might not sound right or most enjoyable neither. and why would it be ok with accurate gear to modify equal sound but not vise versa if the final result to the listener match. doenst make a single bit of sense except the same snakeoil from another measurable angle. :D
Sure - you can fix non flat FR with DSP if you want, but why would you want to buy gear that forces you to spend extra money to do that? It's also not possible to fix badly designed gear with basic tone controls.

It's a different matter with audible distortion though - if your gear adds this it cannot be removed and you are stuck with it, except by buying different gear. That is the pixie dust hunt I referenced earlier.
 

pablolie

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How about Nietzsche's three phases of awareness:

1. Camel: you believe everything someone trying to sell you something says aka you're easy prey for charlatans...
2. Lion: you have read, learned and listened and are so convinced it's the best method that you vocalize your opinion with strict conviction every time you can...
3, Child: you have learned many things are relative, allow for others to embark on their growth journey and don't get into fights

:-D
 

pau

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Sure - you can fix non flat FR with DSP if you want, but why would you want to buy gear that forces you to spend extra money to do that? It's also not possible to fix badly designed gear with basic tone controls.

It's a different matter with audible distortion though - if your gear adds this it cannot be removed and you are stuck with it, except by buying different gear. That is the pixie dust hunt I referenced earlier.
I think you can if you use compressor & remove dynamic range, When running subs hot with movie BEQs i have one in use just in case.
 

tonycollinet

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I think you can if you use compressor & remove dynamic range, When running subs hot with movie BEQs i have one in use just in case.
Once distortion is added there is no way to remove it. It is not possible to differentiate distortion from signal.
 

pablolie

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Hi all, long time listener, first time poster here. Apologies in advance, 1500 word essay incoming:

TL;DR: ITT I try to classify all audiophiles without mocking anyone.

I think it’s amazing how much contributors to this and other forums have advanced the state of the hobby as well as the industry “from the bleachers”, so to speak. I’ve learned a ton just by reading.

It's really great to see how much we accomplish simply by sharing information and opinions online. But it's also a bit sad that the audiophiles seem to argue and disrespect each other so much. There's something like Godwin's Law at work here, where the probability that a slur like "audiophool" or "pedant objectivist" will be used approaches 100% as a thread grows in length.

So, I have something to add to the discussion. Not about the listening equipment, but about the listeners.

Yes, unfortunately I am no engineer - I’m part of the reviled class of subhuman leeches known as marketers. A big part of my job is to study and genuinely understand what motivates people, so we can figure out why they buy the things they buy.

I have been in product (note: NOT the same as engineering) and marketing for most of my career, both in acoustics (slinging pyramid foam on eBay) and consumer audio (Bluetooth speakers & headphones), among several other things. I’ve also been an audio hobbyist since my teens, took an audio minor in college, and have spent time reading discussions on various audio-related forums all the while.

In this time, I have observed that there are fundamentally different audiophile philosophies that don't appear to be clearly understood. While there are more than a few attempts to classify audiophiles out there, none I’ve seen are completely serious, most are jokes, and most tend to confound behaviors and basic motivations.

My goal here is to propose a legitimate way to classify audiophiles - without judgment. My hope is that by doing so, we can argue less, appreciate each other more, and generally get on with discussing audio instead of thinking the other guy is some kind of idiot or lunatic.

With all that incredibly long preamble out of the way, here’s my view of how to classify audiophiles. My goal is to write each description in such a way that the people described would actually (mostly?) agree with it, and that others might start to see the point in it.

Each category is defined by the fundamental philosophy or top priority among the group. You may share behaviors of many groups, but (if I have thought this through correctly) you can’t belong to more than one group.

The Nominal Audiophile: Their most important belief is that a person should not spend more than a certain amount on audio equipment. However, they do want the best sound they can get within that budget (and usually without inconveniencing themselves in any real way.)

This actually describes most people who think about their audio purchases even a little bit… which is not everyone, but it’s some. I classify them as audiophiles, because in any given decision-making they do around audio, “sound quality” (however they understand that term) is their first priority once the budget is met. (I’ve done the research, this is true.)

They DO care about sound, just not as much as self-described audiophiles do. Most of them will start a given comment with “I’m no audiophile,” but we know the truth… they’re still technically audiophiles. The other 3 types of audiophile almost always start out as a Nominal Audiophile before they catch the bug.


The Objectivist Audiophile: Their most important belief is that exact, distortion-free reproduction of the recording is the highest and perhaps only sensible goal of audio equipment.

Objectivists trust numbers over their own ears, and especially other people’s ears. They believe that all audible phenomena are measurable in principle, and many of them believe that all relevant audible phenomena are measurable with existing equipment and psychoacoustics. Objectivists have bravely met the hard truth that even their own ears can’t be trusted, and make the most of it, satisfied in the knowledge they are actually moving ever closer to an authentic version of the true recording.

Objectivists almost always allow some room for preference (at some point, especially with regard to the in-room sound field, even the notion of “fidelity” itself becomes a bit subjective) - but they are much less willing to entertain a preference (even their own) that is for objectively lower-fidelity reproduction.

If the measurements are good and what objectivists hear is bad, the most likely explanation is that the right measurements have not yet been performed, the problem will eventually be rooted out numerically. True objectivists will not slaughter sacred cows, because they don’t care about the concept of “sacred” or even “cow” - they simply want to know whether their pound of beef weighs exactly 453.592 grams.

Objectivists often agree about equipment, because they will tend to read the same measurements, and credible measurements generally trump other opinion-drivers for objectivists. However, objectivists are often troubled by the failure (from their point of view) of other audiophiles to recognize what they see as obvious superiority / inferiority in equipment.

The Subjectivist Audiophile: Their most important belief is simply that audio equipment should sound good to the owner.

“If it sounds good, it is good”. Notably, this is also the dictum of the musician and producer. Their core belief is that they should enjoy what’s coming out of their system - that's what "good" means here, nothing more or less. If the numbers say their sound is flawed, but they like the sound, then to hell with the numbers. Even revising the audio actively and creatively (via DSP, strong tube distortion, etc) is fine within reason.

Subjectivists rarely reject measurements out of hand, and some rely heavily on them to narrow down their choices, but measurements are a means to an end, not the philosophical bedrock of their approach to audio. Subjectivists may or may not totally trust their ears over measurements, but at the end of the day, their ears run the show.

Subjectivists disagree a great deal about equipment, because de gustibus non est disputandum - there’s no accounting for taste. One man’s trash is another man’s favorite tube amp. They also vary in how much faith they place in measurements and specs, opinions of reviewers, feelings about certain types of technology, and so on. As such, what seems obvious to one will seem insane to another - that’s just how it goes.

The Romantic Audiophile: (Romantic in the sense of the romantic authors and composers, not love and marriage.) Their most important beliefs are that the experience matters most, that audio equipment should support the listening experience in any way they see fit, and that human judgment of the experience trumps all other factors.

The difference between the listening experience and good sound seems subtle, but it’s cataclysmically huge. Subjectivists might not agree about what good sound is, but few of them would argue that sufficiently advanced technology could not - in principle - quantify the differences they debate. Romantic Audiophiles feel that the experience of listening, and the impact of equipment on that experience, are fundamentally not quantifiable or reducible, nor is there much point in trying. Placebo effect, DBT ABX, LCR… these things miss the point.

To understand the Romantic Audiophile another way, try to understand this: Is the experience of looking at the Mona Lisa the same as looking at an absolutely identical reproduction of the Mona Lisa? Objectively, of course it is. We just said they’re identical, right? But if you know one is a fake and one is real… you may answer “of course it’s not the same!” One was touched by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci, and one was made in a lab or something. The viewing experience is therefore nothing alike… this is Romantic Audiophilia in a nutshell.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, Romantics don’t actually tend to discount, ignore, or completely disbelieve measurements - but they also believe that a listening experience is genuinely more than the sum of its parts. They also tend to doubt that measurements capture everything they hear. For Romantics, measurements are more like the index page of a book than the whole story.

Romantics surprisingly don’t often seem to disagree much about decent equipment, but very rarely place another person’s account of a listening experience above their own. They can appreciate the experiences a wide variety of equipment can provide, without attempting to create a ranking, they are often content to simply describe. Romantics have a hard time understanding the Objectivist fixation on measurements above experience (since they value experience above all), and don't really care if their purchases make sense to anyone else. Acquiring strange new gear really is their hobby, because that's a way to create a new experience, regardless of what it "actually" sounds like.

...

Anyway, I'm interested in whether these descriptions make sense to people, hopefully they are not offensive to anyone!
Interesting post - I think most of us (if we truly care to be honest) ultimately are a blend of all 4. It's not like the answer to those is a totally binary true-false, it's more like a grading of 1-10, kind of a Meyers Briggs personality test. :)
 
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kemmler3D

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You can even add distortion using DSP if you want - though I'm not aware of any studies that indicate a general preference for this.

Trying to get your preferred sound by buying randomly distorting gear with randomly non flat frequency response is a hiding to nothing, and just asking to spend vast sums of money chasing pixie dust.

On the former point - added distortion is universally preferred but not on every instrument, and always in varying amounts. This is why producers / mixing engineers add harmonic distortion on just about everything, but don't usually add more distortion on the master track. By the time the listener gets it, all the "nice" distortion should have been added already, in the studio. Adding distortion via DSP is literally an entire industry unto itself, it's just that producers get to have all the fun.

On the latter point - agree. There is plenty of room for preference on distortion or non-flat FR, but it's not cost-effective to buy exotic gear to get those effects. There is nothing special about those sounds that can't be done with DSP these days. Spend $500 on software and you can do in a week what 30 years and $300K swapping speakers could otherwise.

Of course, the DSP route completely lacks glamour, but if you want a "warm" (or whatever type) sound without the hassle, that is the best way to get it IMO.
 

pablolie

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On the former point - added distortion is universally preferred but not on every instrument, and always in varying amounts. This is why producers / mixing engineers add harmonic distortion on just about everything, but don't usually add more distortion on the master track. By the time the listener gets it, all the "nice" distortion should have been added already, in the studio. Adding distortion via DSP is literally an entire industry unto itself, it's just that producers get to have all the fun.

On the latter point - agree. There is plenty of room for preference on distortion or non-flat FR, but it's not cost-effective to buy exotic gear to get those effects. There is nothing special about those sounds that can't be done with DSP these days. Spend $500 on software and you can do in a week what 30 years and $300K swapping speakers could otherwise.

Of course, the DSP route completely lacks glamour, but if you want a "warm" (or whatever type) sound without the hassle, that is the best way to get it IMO.
Guess this reveals a fifth type, "the eternal EQ tweaker?" :-D
 
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